It Ain’t Strength Training Unless You’re Gettin Strong: A Response

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I received an email the other day pointing me in the direction of Jason Ferruggia’s article, It Ain’t Strength Training Unless You’re Gettin Strong.

To say that Jason goes off a little bit would be an understatement. If you haven’t already read it, I highly suggest you do so. Go a head, I’ll sit here and wait. Seriously, it will only take you ten minutes.

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In the meantime, for those of us who have read it, we’ll just sit here and stare at Jennifer Stano.

Okay, you’re back!

I’ve never met Jason in person, but I’ve read a lot of his stuff. Sure he’ll ruffle a few feathers here and there, and go against the grain with some of things he says, but you know what: good! I can respect that because he’ll often write what a lot of us are thinking but don’t have the cahones to say.

That being said, does it surprise me that this particular post came across as a bit controversial and pissed off a lot of people? Nope.

To be honest, I don’t see what all the hooplah is about in the first place. I think Jason hit the nail on the head.

This isn’t to say, though, that I don’t think there’s a time and place for things like “finishers” or “metabolic circuits” or “godknowswhat” – there most certainly is. I’d be remiss to say that I don’t include them (occasionally) in the programs that I write for my athletes and clients, as well for myself personally.

But I do think that most (if not all) trainees are under the mindset that it’s normal to include conditioning type work every……..single…….day. It may come as a surprise to most that even elite athletes don’t do that; so what makes you think that YOU can get away with it?

This whole mantra of “more is better” is really getting out of hand, and it something that I have to battle as a coach on a weekly basis. A few weeks ago, for instance, one of our college kids (who was home for Christmas break) came in on a scheduled mobility/movement day and asked if he could add in some extra finishers/sprinting. In his words:

“I’m trying to bulk up, and just wanted to get some extra work in.”

After I resisted the urge to throw my face into a wall, I politely said “no,” and walked away. Seriously, if you’re trying to put weight on, why waste the calories by throwing in EXTRA work that will do nothing but compromise your recovery?

Doing 400 kettlebell swings on an “off” day (when you don’t know how to do them correctly in the first place), while admirable, it not strength training. Neither is doing front squat tabatas. Neither is any other crazy circuit you can think of. Matter of fact, much like Jason alluded to, I’d go so far as to say that adding in all that extra (key word: extra) work is going to nothing but stagnate one’s progress rather than enhance it.

And while we’re on the topic, I can count the number of times I’ve puked from a training session on one hand. Matter of fact, I can count the total number of times with two fingers. And I’ve put myself through some brutal training sessions.

I don’t get this whole “puke or go home” mentality. Lets be honest, it’s not that hard to make yourself (or someone else) puke. Go out and push the Prowler for a while. Or, watch a Jillian Michaels clip.

Both are equally effective.

Puking doesn’t impress me. While there are many trainers and trainees who pride themselves on making their clients (or themselves) puke, I think all it really shows is that they have no idea what it takes to actually get someone better. Great, you just puked. Want a gold star?

Now, one could make the argument that for some trainees, said “cardio strength training” can, in fact, get them stronger. Agreed. If you look at the research, it’s been well established that beginners can attain a training effect with as little as 40% of their 1RM. Even so, I like to keep things simple and follow the basic principles of progressive overload – making an effort to add just a liiiiiiitle bit of weight each and every training session.

Besides, if someone’s throwing up their lunch every other work out, how long do you think they’re going to stick with a consistent program? My guess is not too long.

In the end, I agree 100% with what Jason said. You SHOULD feel like you want more at the end of a session. It bares repeating: FATIGUE WILL ALWAYS MASK ONE’S TRUE FITNESS LEVEL!!! If you go around beating yourself to the ground every day, it stands to reason you’ll never really know where you stand with regards to your actual strength levels. Or, put another way, you’ll be weak. Most likely. Granted I’m simplifying things, but I don’t feel I’m too far off.

Again, to reiterate, I AM NOT saying that it’s dumb or wrong to include things like finishers or metabolic circuits in one’s repertoire. Given the right context, they can definitely be a valuable component of any well-rounded program. All I’m saying, much like Jason, is lets not get too carried away here. Is it really necessary to do 400 m sprints on your “off day?” Is it any wonder why you haven’t seen your bench press or squat numbers go up?

Besides, as Jason alluded to, diet is going to take care of 90% of fat-loss. You can do all the burpees you want during your lunch break, but the hard truth remains: burpees aren’t going to negate those 1-8 (depending on who you ask) beers you had last night watching the BCS game. Just sayin…..

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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